Monday, March 17, 2014

Nobody likes compliments

If there is one thing that keeps repeatedly thrusting itself into my ken, it is the fact that anything that you assume to be logically true of human beings will be invariably wrong. Take compliments for example. One would assume that hearing praise pleases people and, therefore, they would not only like getting compliments but would also encourage the giving of compliments. Right? Absurd assumption!

Ever heard someone say, "I liked that movie" and someone else say, "Really?" in a sort of ah-what-else-can-one-expect-of-you tone? Nine times out of ten, the first person would be all apologetic explanations with "Well..the heroine, you know, did a great job of acting..the story was not too bad..of course, the hero could have been better..." and trail off with embarrassment. None in the audience would dare support the complimenting person for fear of being dubbed as lacking in discernment alongside that unfortunate wight. Of course, the possibility of support increases if the movie-maker is a darling of the 'cognoscenti' - since the support would merely be, "Come on! It is a Mani Ratnam film. Of course it is good!" The lesser known the creator, the weaker the wicket for the one who makes the mistake of complimenting.

On the other hand, have you ever heard of someone who trashed a movie getting challenged? Very rarely does it happen AND, in all probability, only when it is, as aforesaid, a movie by a critic's favorite. Even if someone does challenge, all that would be needed to quell the challenge would be a simple, "Oh! It was all right, I suppose, for the popular tastes. But, somehow, there was heart missing in the movie".

You need to be a lot more specific and put in a lot more effort to substantiate a compliment and can get away with vague assertions of inadequacy to support a negative criticism. People are only too ready to believe that your discerning eye has seen lacunae not visible to them - in a sort of mirror image of the Emperor's new clothes, whose invisibility was laid at the doors of the moral inadequacy of the viewers. Society, thus, goes all out to make the act of complimenting dangerous socially. Who wants a reputation of lacking discrimination?

But, surely, the person receiving the criticism would respect the one who compliments rather than the one who issues negative criticism? Wrong again! When someone praises you, how often do you feel unalloyed happiness and how often do your reactions range from 'He is saying this only to please me' to 'What does he want from me"? And, don't you think that the person criticizing you is more honest than the one praising you?

The answer to the latter question has, in my experience, been 'Yes' more often than not. Having heard that 'Truth is bitter' since childhood we have somehow convinced ourselves that 'If it is bitter, it must be the truth'. A person who compliments you has, in your opinion, a hidden agenda BUT people who criticize you seem to you to be supermen bound by an oath of honesty and also equipped with an unerring eye for the truth!

Thankfully, I have never been able to hold my breath for long and, therefore, am quite content to wade in the shallows of words instead of diving into the depths. If you say I am good, I am ecstatic and feel no pressing need to wonder why you are complimenting me. If you say I stink, I am upset but I feel no need to ascribe any more honesty to you than I would ascribe to the one who praises.

Of course, I prefer the sweet to the bitter - without a care for diabetes!

40 comments:

  1. This reminds me on my great grandmother, Suresh - she used to believe a doctor who says her condition is serious and gives her injection is a good doctor while a doctor who dispatches her off saying she is completely all right is a bad doctor.

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    1. Hahaha! We all seem to think bad news is honest, don't we? :)

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  2. I do like compliments, Sureshji & I am very generous with them without caring about diabetes!
    I faced the same situation as you have rightly described when I praised Chennai Express movie after watching the premier show! People had fun trashing it!
    Another story that it made Bollywood history :)

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  3. Good one! I know someone who doubts all compliments she gets, and if the same person (who complimented her) gives some "constructive criticism" she says that's how this person is - always speaks negative of her! :P

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    1. Hahaha! THIS one believes people are not honest whichever way they speak :)

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  4. Chalo! Atleast I am glad you prefer the sweet to the bitter!

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  5. Truth is seldom nice and since people want to be seen as nice they seldom speak the truth.

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    1. Ah! It is a battle between wanting to be seen as nice and wanting to be seen as discerning and the latter wins more often than the former.

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  6. When it comes to compliments, everyone enjoys them. But, again it has to be also pegged on the person complimenting. Some people do tend to go overboard. About movies, why should any one person's opinion be taken seriously or as the truth. Creative stuff like movies and books are always open to interpretation. Unless, I've made the movie, I don't really care who slams it. I slam it too when I find it stupid. Your liking the same movie does not in anyway affect my friendship with you :). I actually find it annoying when people hold their reviews to heart and can't handle a different opinion.

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    1. The point though is that when you praise the movie you do not hold to your opinion as strongly as when you slam it :) The metaphorical 'you' NOT the literal 'you' :)

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    2. Arre no, Suresh. I know many who feel offended because you slammed a movie they waxed eloquent about. I just guess somehow they feel that their opinion is 'right.'

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  7. But I love compliments Suresh ... and I love giving them as well...Like I really liked this post of yours :) ;)

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  8. Me too.. a dedicated member of the Diabetic Club...:-P..

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    1. Hahaha! I knew that I would have some good company

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  9. Discerning observations. We all love compliments but not many can take them graciously.

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    1. I also find that 1.We doubt the veracity of praise far more than of blame and 2.We are more uncertain of our taste when we hand out praise than when we hand out blame. :)

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  10. sweet to bitter... any day.. even if it's fake, my little heart can't handle the bitterness of the world *shakes head in total dramebaaz style* :P

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    1. Me too - till the complimenter wants to be remembered in my will, I prefer to take the compliment as being honest :)

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  11. Compliments are fine with me. Its when people reach the ass-kissing phase that psyches me out! :P

    And some people give compliments excepting a return receipt. Well I'd rather be honest and keep my mouth shut instead of sugar coating something that I don't mean at all.

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    1. Ah! Ass-kissing is a compliment too - not, maybe, for the work but that it means you are big enough to the guy to merit it :)

      Yeah - the return receipt thing happens. I prefer to assume all compliments as honest till it drops off for want of a return :)

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  12. When I was in school, our teacher said, "Truth is Bitter" while reading some lesson. I had replied back then, "Truth is bitter only for bad people". I still feel that truth is not bitter for everyone. Since I never believed that myth, may be I am saved. I am all ready to accept compliments, praises and flattery too. When I read your posts, I realize I am so different from people, either positively or negatively.

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    1. When you respect yourself Farida, some things do tend to be different .

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  13. Deep down everyone loves a compliment in the first few seconds. It is only after the initial 'feel good' phase the doubts fester! I would take any of them at face value and not waste much time pondering unless the complimenting person or the critic is someone I value.

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  14. I would say a lot depends on the recipient's assessment of own worth, Suresh. If I am confident, false words meant either way would mean nothing to me.

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    1. THAT is the point Uma! It is also the self-confidence of the one who praises which will keep him firm in his assessment - without feeling rabid anger with one who disagrees. Those who lack confidence doubt both the praise received and the praise they give, if they ever have the confidence to give praise. Pulling someone down is easier since it gives a spurious sense of superiority and placing undue and illogical credence in negative criticism (as opposed to a logical credence in valid criticism) vibes with a lack of self-confidence.

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  15. Who wont like to be comolimented? In any position in life,at any stage in life,on any ocassion in life one would love to get compliments so long as one knows in ones heart that one desrves it

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    1. THERE lies the problem - very few feel confident in their hearts that they deserve the praise.

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  16. Deep down everyone's hearts, they have a desire to be complimented! And those who say they don't are lying ;) Great post as always!

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    1. They do. This post was a tongue-in-cheek about how people behave in a manner that discourages complimenting :)

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  17. Well said, Suresh. You always make a point that is solid.
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    No, I didn't mean that actually. Your writing has no sense, no depth, no real feel about reeyalitee. (I have ta be critical)

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    1. I know - Someone is holding a gun to your head :P

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  18. I'm going to read it again to understand better as to what you were trying to convey. As you said, it's human nature to think that even positive criticism given without any hidden agenda is because a person cannot stand the other's success and compliments are for some hidden agenda. That is why it would be better to react with both criticism and compliment in the same way!

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    1. The problem, normally, is that people find compliments more difficult to believe in than criticism :) That was the point I was trying to convey :)

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  19. I treasure compliments, but wish the negatives didn't linger in my brain and replay themselves so often.

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    1. Human beings seem hardwired for unhappiness :)

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